2019 American Music Awards

Questions Answered: Robert Kyncl, VP of Content at Google; Global Head of Content at YouTube

What did you wake up thinking about? How to scale my time better. It's on my mind every single day. We live in exciting times where the world as we know it changes in front of our eyes, and when you are inside one of the places that make those changes happen, time is truly your most precious commodity. Twenty-four hours a day is not nearly enough, so surrounding yourself with talented, passionate people who fit within your culture is key to getting everything done and retaining some balance in your life.

Describe a lesson you learned from a failure. If the underlying thesis of what you are trying to achieve is correct, every failure is just a validating point in your decision tree--so you don't really feel so bad about it and move on very quickly to a better path. But, you have to make sure your thesis is right.

What will define your career in the coming year? Simplification of our business. When you grow at the pace we do, you tend to take on more and more things because they don't seem to have high marginal cost...until you are doing too much and can't move as nimbly as you'd want to. My big focus is on high alignment and simplification. It will make our lives more productive and balanced.

Who is your most important mentor, and what did you learn from them? I've been blessed to work with some amazing business leaders of our time who all impacted me in their own way. [Netflix CEO] Reed Hastings on simplicity, focus and competitive moat; [YouTube CEO] Salar Kamangar on patience; [Google chairman] Eric Schmidt on thinking on the highest plane. I also love to spend time with those who have seen many more changes in their lifetime than I have...the heads of labels, publishing companies, movie studios and sports leagues. Finally, my favorite type of people to learn from are financiers-they are the masters of spotting trends, deducting complexity to basics and leaving all emotion aside.

Name a project that you're not affiliated with that has most impressed you in the past year. I should name some music examples but there are too many successes, so it would be hard to pick favorites, especially in this publication. So let me go left field on you: Khan Academy, an educational channel on YouTube. I was always very impressed with what Sal Khan has accomplished, but when my 12-year-old daughter showed me she learned how to code animation from Khan Academy, I told her, "Put that book down and watch some more YouTube." It's when I felt absolutely best about what I do. Also Taghreedat-a nonprofit owned by two young guys in the Middle East who decided, in their free time, to "Arabize" content on the Web. They did it by crowd-sourcing one volunteer at a time.

Name a desert island album. I'd take a playlist by Quincy Smith. He is an amazing curator--I love his eclectic choices. Though he should not quit his day job [at Code Advisors].


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